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Thu, 22 Feb 2018
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Porn, hacking the habit loop

how to quit porn
It's been interesting to watch this series unfold this week. Though I knew it would be controversial, I wasn't sure what to expect and how much interest there would actually be in the topic.

As it happened, the posts received massive amounts of traffic. And while there was definitely vocal opposition to the arguments I laid out, these were fewer in number than I expected. This may be partly chalked up to the fact that AoM's readership tends to skew more traditional and religious (even though we actively welcome men from all backgrounds) - guys who are likely more interested in this topic than the general population. But I also have to think that there are tons of men - conservative and liberal alike — that aren't completely happy with the role of porn in their lives, for whatever reason. I've long felt that there are a bunch of things in our culture towards which the media relentlessly presents a viewpoint that supposedly everyone shares, and people don't feel comfortable publicly admitting that it just isn't working that way in their own personal lives. I think the idea of porn use as harmless and casual is one of those things.

At any rate, if you're reading this post, you or someone you know is trying to quit porn and are looking for some help in doing so. Here's the good news: in the vast majority of cases, you don't need expensive rehabs or retreats to rid your life of porn. As I mentioned yesterday, in reading a boatload of books and countless blog and forum postings on "porn addiction recovery," I discovered that most of the advice given is the exact same advice therapists and cognitive psychologists offer to someone who's trying to change a bad habit as innocuous as swearing or fingernail biting. Sure, there are a few differences, but overall, quitting porn is just like quitting pretty much any other bad habit.

Comment: Also see This is Your Brain on Porn


Dr. Gabor Maté: The stress-disease connection, addiction & the destruction of American childhood

Dr. Gabor Mate
Today, a Democracy Now! special with the Canadian physician and bestselling author, Dr. Gabor Maté. From disease to addiction, parenting to attention deficit disorder, Maté's work focuses on the centrality of early childhood experiences to the development of the brain, and how those experiences can impact everything from behavioral patterns to physical and mental illness. While the relationship between emotional stress and disease, and mental and physical health more broadly, is often considered controversial within medical orthodoxy, Maté argues too many doctors seem to have forgotten what was once a commonplace assumption, that emotions are deeply implicated in both the development of illness, addictions and disorders, and in their healing.


Self-validation: How to accept your internal experience

happy woman
Validation means to express understanding and acceptance of another person's internal experience, whatever that might be. Validation does not mean you agree or approve. Validation builds relationships and helps ease upset feelings. Knowing that you are understood and that your emotions and thoughts are accepted by others is powerful. Validation is like relationship glue.

Self-validation is accepting your own internal experience, your thoughts and feelings. Self-validation doesn't mean that you believe your thoughts or think your feelings are justified. There are many times that you will have thoughts that surprise you or that don't reflect your values or what you know is true. You will also have feelings that you know aren't justfied. If you fight the thoughts and feelings, or judge yourself for having them, then you increase your emotional upset. You'll also miss out on important information about who you are as a person.

Validating your thoughts and emotions will help you calm yourself and manage your emotions more effectively. Validating yourself will help you accept and better understand yourself, which leads to a stronger identity and better skills at managing intense emotions. Self-validation helps you find wisdom.

Comment: Self-compassion and validation are important for our mental well being, and practicing these skills everyday can teach us to love ourselves for all of who we are. Which, by extension, allows us to better understand and be more accepting of others.

Wine n Glass

Teen addiction can be reduced through service to others

zen image
Teenagers with serious alcohol and other drug problems have a low regard for others. At least, if you are going by the high rates of driving under the influence and having unprotected sex with a history of sexually transmitted disease, research shows.

The findings also showed that these adolescents are less apt to volunteer their time helping others, an activity that she has been shown to help adult alcoholics stay sober.

Developmental psychologist Maria Pagano, PhD, of Case Western Reserve University, had a major challenge in designing this study.

Comment: More on the benefits of helping others.

Life Preserver

How to develop emotional resilience and why everyone should do it

resilience tree sign ocean
Job stress, social conflict, illness (sometimes serious illness), financial hardship, our children's struggles, a move across country, a divorce, a death of a loved one...they're all events that can test our mental fortitude or—in more extreme cases—leave us emotionally adrift. Some people turn into a puddle during a critical emergency, while others jump in the middle of it to save the day. Yet, watch those same people face a protracted struggle like the death of a spouse or a child, and the one who managed the momentary crisis may have a much harder time. Adversity varies and challenges us in different ways. But our ability to endure and bounce back from stress, struggle, and loss is what emotional resilience is all about. What can our ancestors' examples teach us about psychological hardiness and mental fortitude?

Genuine resilience demands a deep level of acceptance—the acceptance that even if some things in life shake or shatter us, that's not the end of our story. Just as our physical bodies are vulnerable and resilient, so are our mental selves. We can survive a horrible car accident with damage to multiple organs and limbs—and still heal to a large, if not complete, extent. We can suffer a stroke—and more or less regain full functioning as other parts of our brain take over tasks previously handled by the damaged section. In the same way, we can recover from great emotional damage.

Let me be clear though. I would argue that emotional resilience isn't about pushing down feelings or living in denial. There's a mammoth-sized gap between being forbearing and simply unfeeling. Resilience isn't seated in an original sense of inviolability, but in a commitment to and capacity for healing and continuing. Think adaptability rather than invulnerability.

Comment: Feeling and working with one's emotional states is tantamount to personal growth and development. Today, we can see the effects on society of people not doing this en masse, through emotionally numbing pharmaceuticals and antidepressants, mind altering drugs, alcoholism, and chronic dissociation through various means, and the results aren't good.

Taking on the challenge of feeling one's emotions and working with them, as well as working on developing one's capacity for empathy, isn't easy and can often be painful. But those who undertake such a task reap the benefits of creating a rich and meaningful life for themselves, and also for those around them. Society as a whole also benefits from such undertakings since, like the cells in a body, society is comprised of "cells" of individual people and when those "cells" are functioning well, then the "body" (society) can function well too.

Éiriú Eolas is a simple and powerful tool to aid this process, and be learned quickly and easily. In addition, the reader may also be interested in the book Life is Religion: 12 Daily Exercises for Mind, Body, and Soul

life is religion book cover
© Quantum Future Group


Skills and character traits that are hard to find during a crisis

boss vs leader
I have never lived through a national scale crisis and like most people, I hope I never have to. That said, with the growing instability present in the state of the world today it would be rather foolish to assume that the near future holds nothing but fairy dust, unicorns and gumdrops. Preparation is a necessity.

Many Americans cannot yet relate to the concept of full spectrum crisis, but most of us have at least experienced localized disasters. In order to understand what a national emergency might look like, one simply needs to examine the microcosm of localized disasters and then imagine the same exact problems but magnified 1,000 times.

From my personal experience with local crises, I can say that the worst threat comes not from the event itself, but the ways in which people choose to deal with the event. That is to say, for smart, courageous and prepared people with the right traits and skills, there is no such thing as a crisis. For stupid people who overestimate their abilities or who let fear dominate their thinking, any crisis becomes an insurmountable moment of utter terror.

The right people in the right place at the right time — no crisis. The wrong people in the right place at the right time — total destruction. Therefore, the key to surviving any crisis is to have the right people in place, and to be well away from the wrong people.

The question is, who are the right people? How do we identify them? And, how do we examine ourselves and determine if we are ready or unready? Here are some of the increasingly rare character traits and skills that make a crisis manageable for any community.

Alarm Clock

Children spend less time outside than the average prisoner

children playing
Prisoners the world over are characteristically defined by their inability to move freely. Inmates at the Wabash maximum security prison in Indiana, however, were recently shocked to learn about one group that enjoys less time outdoors than they do: children.

A global survey conducted on children's time outdoors quickly became an ongoing campaign called "Dirt is Good" after the findings showed a concerning lack of outdoor playtime among children aged five to twelve. The results of the survey, commissioned by British laundry company Persil and conducted by an independent market research firm, revealed ⅓ of British children spend 30 minutes or less outside every day — and that one in five does not play outside at all on an average day. The researchers surveyed 12,000 parents spanning 10 countries: the United States, Brazil, U.K., Turkey, Portugal, South Africa, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and India.

Comment: Read more about the importance of reconnecting children with the outside world


Intentional mind-wandering can promote creative thinking and problem solving

 mind wandering, daydreaming
There are two types of mind wandering — each with a different experience.

Mind wandering tends to be seen in a negative way, but zoning out on purpose can help creative thinking and problems solving.

Now a new study identifies a vital difference between intentional and unintentional mind wandering.

It reveals how intentional mind wandering feels different from accidental mind wandering.

Comment: Taking time out for mind-wandering or daydreaming can broaden your attention and help to make creative connections between ideas, which does not happen when you are over-focused on a problem. Creative people often use daydreaming as 'creative incubation', knowing from experience that the best ideas come seemingly out of the blue when our minds are elsewhere.

Spacing out and goofing off can open the door to creativity


Successful dying: researchers define the elements of a 'good death'

Holding hands
© UCLan
For most people, the culmination of a good life is a "good death," though what that means exactly is a matter of considerable consternation. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine surveyed published, English-language, peer-reviewed reports of qualitative and quantitative studies defining a "good death," ultimately identifying 11 core themes associated with dying well.

The findings are published in the April 2016 issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

The research team, headed by senior author Dilip Jeste, MD, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and director of the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at UC San Diego School of Medicine, focused on three groups of stakeholders: patients, family members (before or during bereavement) and health care providers.

"This is the first time that data from all of the involved parties have been put together," said Jeste, who is also associate dean for healthy aging and senior care at UC San Diego School of Medicine. "Death is obviously a controversial topic. People don't like to talk about it in detail, but we should. It's important to speak honestly and transparently about what kind of death each of us would prefer."

The literature search culled through 32 qualifying studies. It identified 11 core themes of good death: preferences for a specific dying process, pain-free status, religiosity/spirituality, emotional well-being, life completion, treatment preferences, dignity, family, quality of life, relationship with the health care provider and "other."


The surprising ways weather affects our mood and behavior

child sunny weather, mood
Weather can be sunny, stormy, dreary or unpredictable but then so, too, can your mood. The way you feel on any given day may actually be intricately tied to the weather forecast in ways science is only beginning to understand.

Many people are now aware that spending time outdoors on a sunny day, and allowing the sun to shine on your bare skin, is necessary for your body to produce vitamin D, which also plays a role in serotonin production.

Serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure. This is one reason why bright-light therapy is so effective for treating people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is sometimes referred to as 'winter depression.'

This is only the tip of the iceberg, however. A sunny day can make you feel inexplicably happy, but only if you can frolic outdoors. People who are stuck indoors on a sunny day may feel their mood plummet, and the weather also has significant (and often subconscious) effects on behavior and more.